Click Fraud Detection and Prevention: A Complete Guide

analytics, digital advertising, Marketing & Advertising Technology

May 8, 2018 by

Marketers are already aware that clicking on their own ads to improve campaign performance is against the rules of every major ad platform. Unfortunately, automation tools (bots) allow various parties to fool networks and circumvent bans. Using this practice, rival companies can even sabotage your business by launching click fraud campaigns and ruining your firm’s market standing. They may even drive up CPC so your business has a harder time affording the campaign and attaining its targets.

To prevent click fraud, you should devise a solid game plan. Pay attention to relevant metrics so you can quickly recognize an attack on your campaign and business. To avoid any fraudulent click activities on your campaign, here are some actionable techniques to get you started:

Identify Bots Early

Make it a priority to identify click fraud bots, which will eventually lead you to the offending party. Remember, like any other data breach, you need to track down and eliminate the problem to protect your company. Neglect the problem and your business might sustain lasting damage.

  • Check if your campaigns register surprisingly high click-through-rates.
  • Compare the traffic rates of PPC media-enabled pages with the rest of the website.
  • Watch out for irregular traffic spikes, especially during unusual hours of the day.
  • Monitor your site for less-than-desired engagement metrics compared to traffic, like high bounce rates, short session times, and minimum time on site.
  • Determine if you are paying high fees without much to show in returns of returns.

Detecting these patterns is not always easy or obvious since you’ll be dealing with multiple data quality points in business. Employ modern detection tools to level the playing field. Do research on the many bot, botnet, malware, and sniffer detection tools capable of accurately identifying and flagging suspicious activities.

ClickCease, for example, is a powerful tool that blocks invalid clicks and boosts your PPC campaigns. The built in capabilities of Google Adwords are insufficient; ClickCease integrates fully with Adwords and Bing, automatically reporting and preventing click fraud propagated by bots, competitors, and click farms. It's reasonably easy for you to reclaim your investment costs via the refunds claims manager functionality of ClickCease.

Employ Honeypots, Scripts, and Filters

Find CAPTCHAs annoying? Well, you’re not alone. But they are highly effective when it comes to thwarting automated systems and bots. Thus, if you’re looking for something that solves the purpose of a CAPTCHA without the annoying bits, consider the use of a honeypot field technique.

Create a field using JavaScript or CSS that is invisible to regular users. So, when your site is targeted by spam bots, they will mistakenly fill in this field immediately alerting you to their presence.

Use scripts and filters to block different websites, users, and domains that interfere with your revenue, traffic, and referral data. Combine various web search results, WHOIS data, etc. to find details regarding the portals or domains you should exclude from your analytics.

Leverage Contextual Brand Safety Segments

One of the best ways to prevent ad fraud is to use contextual brand safety segments. The pre-bid contextual data segments are available through the demand side platform. With the help of the Comscore bid ratings, you can easily choose platforms that have the lowest levels of invalid traffic. Hence, instead of running your ad campaigns and filtering bot traffic after review, you wipe out fraudsters right from the start of the campaign. The below screenshot provides a view of the available segments and the percentage of invalid traffic they are likely to have.

Run Your Own Metric Audits

While online tools are mostly reliable, it doesn’t hurt to check up on AdWords and Analytics metrics and KPIs using your own intuition. Monitor your website for unusual patterns and spikes, or trends that make no sense. Check if your costs are steady or they’ve increased greatly while your revenue remains the same. Immerse yourself in the process and become familiar with what is going on regularly. This will enable you to identify a performance or traffic problem without any delay.

One of the best KPIs to measure fraud activity is Invalid Traffic (IVT)%. You can apply this metric across all your traffic sources. Based on the findings, you can easily block ad partners that are under-performing.

Target Specific Demographics and Websites

Never target broad demographics with clickbait. Rather, stick to the customers and audience you're familiar with. Targeting details will help you run a great marketing campaign. Get a suitable data management platform (DMP) to help you with the process. Use reliable data providers capable of generating quality metrics by blocking or eliminating bots regularly and frequently.

Moreover, rely only on high quality sites for ad placement because low quality sites are a major source of click fraud. Often, low quality sites employ bots that automatically target advertiser sites and their ads resulting in loss of revenue.

Pay Attention to Ad Placement

Give yourself sufficient time to find the perfect placement spot for ads on a site. Maximizing your revenue and performance should always be a priority, but try to limit exposure to automated tools and bots that crawl through your site. Online fraud detection firm White Ops found that no matter how reputed a company, brand, or partner is, there’s no guarantee that their website won’t become a target for bot traffic.

Use technology to validate the assumptions and stay secure. No matter how long you’ve been running a campaign, do some legwork to find an optimal placement for your ads with help from modern metrics, customer data, and technology.

Concluding Remarks

Ad fraud definitely creates uncertainty in the minds of customers. The expected loss from ad fraud is more than $6 billion in 2018 and this will grow to around $11 billion in 2021. These are huge numbers and advertisers need to take strict action against this rising menace as quickly as they can.

Just like HTTPs ensures a secure website, click fraud detection and prevention is the only way to launch a hassle-free ad campaign. The steps above will give you a solid foundation for keeping your site safe now, and for years to come.

To learn more about managing your ad campaigns well and staying on top of important metrics, check out the following classes:

Intro to Marketing Analytics

Consumer Data Systems; CRM + DMP

Introduction to Digital Advertising

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